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Crisis Group is monitoring the volatility in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious country during its transition away from military rule. In Rakhine state, longstanding communal tensions and government discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim minority have morphed into a major crisis. In August 2017, following militant  attacks, the military drove more than 750,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh. This human catastrophe is also a potential driver of transnational jihadist group mobilisation or recruitment. Meanwhile, armed conflict has escalated in both Rakhine and Shan states, and the peace process with some 21 ethnic armed groups has lost momentum as it collides with political and electoral realities. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to mitigate the impact of armed conflict, strengthen the peace process and promote improved communal relations.

CrisisWatch Myanmar

Deteriorated Situation

Fighting between Arakan Army (AA) and military continued at high tempo, leaving dozens dead, while authorities allowed mass release of prisoners, and issued orders to prevent and punish acts of genocide. In Chin State, military 7 April clashed with AA near Nanchaungwa village, Paletwa township, launching airstrikes which left seven civilians dead. UN 17 April said near-daily military air strikes and shelling had killed at least 32 civilians in Rakhine and Chin States since 23 March; Malaysia-based organisation, Arakan Information Center, said total of 45 civilians killed in first half of April in Rakhine and Chin. Amid efforts to expand territorial reach, AA 3 April launched attack on military base in Gwa township, in far south of Rakhine State. Brotherhood Alliance – coalition of armed groups AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – 1 April extended unilateral ceasefire (which never applied in Rakhine State) until 30 April, referencing COVID-19 concerns; military same day said ceasefire “unrealistic”, questioned good faith of armed groups. World Health Organization vehicle transporting COVID-19 test samples 20 April was struck with small-arms fire in Minbya township, Rakhine State; UN driver next day died of injuries; military and AA blamed each other. Outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee 29 April said military’s conduct in Rakhine and Chin “may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Amid fears of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons, President Win Myint 17 April announced country’s largest ever prisoner amnesty, releasing some 25.000, more than a quarter of total prison population; very few political prisoners included. Ahead of 23 May deadline to submit report to International Court of Justice, Myint 8 April ordered officials to abide by Genocide Convention and to preserve any evidence of genocide. From 8 April, hundreds of detained Rohingya who faced court cases for travelling within country without permission released from prison and returned to displacement camps in Rakhine. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Coast Guard 15 April rescued 400 Rohingya refugees after their boat blocked from landing in Malaysia due to COVID-19 restrictions. Incident raised fears of a repeat of 2015 Rohingya maritime migration crisis (see also Bangladesh).

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

20 Mar 2020
[The drug trade] is a problem of the armed conflict in Myanmar [and] it is also a problem of corruption. ASEAN Today

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
18 Jan 2020
The overall impression is that Myanmar is being cautious about Chinese investment, especially ahead of elections planned later in the year. ABC

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
5 Dec 2019
[Aung San Suu Kyi] likely feels that she must do all she can to defend the national interest against what most people in Myanmar see as biased and politically-motivated charges. Reuters

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
29 Nov 2017
The Pope was aware that inserting himself too strongly into a situation with a lot of religious undertones could inflame tensions further in Myanmar. ABC

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
26 Nov 2017
[Buddhist] monks feel the [Myanmar] government is weak on the protection of Buddhism and keeping the morals of the country intact. CNN

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
5 Sep 2017
The [Myanmar] military and government should be careful not to assume all Rohingya are sympathizers or supporters [of jihadis]. Deutsche Welle

Anagha Neelakantan

Former Program Director, Asia

Latest Updates

Briefing / Asia

Myanmar: A Violent Push to Shake Up Ceasefire Negotiations

A trio of ethnic armed groups have escalated their fight with the military in Myanmar’s Shan State. This alliance has long been outside the country’s peace process. With China’s help, the government should pursue bilateral ceasefires – and longer-term rapprochement – with the three organisations.

Briefing / Asia

Peace and Electoral Democracy in Myanmar

Myanmar’s 2020 polls are a chance to consolidate electoral democracy in the country. Yet many ethnic minorities doubt that voting gives them a real say. To preempt possible violence, the government and outside partners should work to enhance the ballot’s inclusiveness and transparency.

Briefing / Asia

An Opening for Internally Displaced Person Returns in Northern Myanmar

In 2011, fighting between Myanmar’s military and Kachin rebels displaced more than 100,000 people. Now they might be able to go home. The military and insurgents should both cease fire while the government arranges for the internally displaced persons’ safe, voluntary return or resettlement.

Also available in Burmese
Briefing / Asia

Building a Better Future for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees who have little hope of going home any time soon. The government should move to improve camp living conditions, in particular by lifting the education ban and fighting crime. Donors should support such steps.

Commentary / Asia

Myanmar: Humanitarian Crisis and Armed Escalation

Ethnic armed conflict, the ongoing Rohingya crisis and thriving illegal business are preventing Myanmar from solving the country’s protracted conflicts. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to sustain aid and diversify its peacebuilding initiatives.

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Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar